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How Nigerian officials sexually abuse and steal from IDPs

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 Once again, another disturbing revelation that emerged in recent weeks of the massive stealing of funds meant to provide succour for the victims of the Boko Haram terror war by officials has exposed the shame of our nation.

After a recent visit to the IDPs’ camps in Maiduguri, Borno state, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of internally displaced persons, Professor Beyani Chaloka, had reportedly lamented: “Food is scarce and many survive on one basic meal per day, while medical care is insufficient. Civilians also require urgent protection, psychosocial support and counselling. Camps should offer protection. Yet I am alarmed to learn that many are in fact exploiting and abusing the most vulnerable. Reports indicate that women and girls face demands for sex to access food or to leave the camps. Early pregnancy and marriage are commonplace while many do not report abuse due to stigmatisation, cultural factors and the knowledge that perpetrators can abuse with impunity.”

But the sex-for-food allegation in IDP camps is just a tip of the iceberg.

Another report by the Human Rights Watch had also revealed how women and girls who have been displaced by Boko Haram’s brutality are being sexually exploited by officials in the camp.

In its report, titled, “Displaced by Boko Haram and Victims twice over’, HRW had revealed how government officials and other authorities in Nigeria have raped and sexually exploited women and girls displaced by the conflict with Boko Haram…..who include camp leaders, vigilante groups, policemen, and soldiers. Women and girls abused by members of the security forces and vigilante groups – civilian self-defense groups working with government forces in their fight against Boko Haram – told Human Rights Watch they feel powerless and fear retaliation if they report the abuse.”

A 17-year-old victim had told HRW that just over a year after she fled the frequent Boko Haram attacks in Dikwa, a town 56 miles west of Maiduguri, a policeman approached her for “friendship” in the camp, and then he raped her. “One day he demanded to have sex with me,” she said. “I refused but he forced me. It happened just that one time, but soon I realised I was pregnant. When I informed him about my condition, he threatened to shoot and kill me if I told anyone else. So I was too afraid to report him.”

These are indeed disturbing and worrisome reports coming out of the IDP camps. Many of the victims of Boko Haram who had been displaced from several Borno towns and villages are now scattered in IDPs camp across the north-east and beyond. In most cases, children and women are caught in the conflict that has pitched the Nigerian army against one of the most dangerous terror group in the world according to the Global Terror Index. In its war against the Nigerian state, Boko Haram is reported to have killed more than 20, 000 Nigerians and displaced more people in its quest to establish a caliphate.

According to information contained in a report ‘Global Overview 2014: people internally displaced by conflict and violence’ by the Internal Displaced Monitoring Centre and the Norwegian Refugee Council, Nigeria has 3.3 million persons – a figure that is the highest in Africa. The victims of terror, which include women and children, are living in IDP camps and many of them have crossed the border to Cameroun, Chad and Niger.

But those living in camps in the north-east have now become victims twice over.

Running from the brutality of Boko Haram, they have fallen into the hand of a more dangerous adversary. According to reports, the victims of Boko Haram are now being made to suffer from the aftermath a war they did not cause. Given the recent reports of abuse, sexual exploitation and diversion of food materials meant for their upkeep, the Nigerian government had proven that it cannot protect these unfortunate Nigerians. How can one explain a situation where fellow Nigerians who were displaced from their homes are now made to in camps?

According to the Latest survey results released by NOIPolls, the vast majority of IDPs in the North-East lack access to food, potable water and healthcare. Analysis from the poll shows that almost 9 in 10 IDPs (85 %) do not have access to quality food and regular meals, about 8 in 10 IDPs (78 %) do not have access to potable water, while almost 7 in 10 IDPs (69 %) lack access to quality healthcare. These results are reported to represent a general overview of what is happening in both official and unofficial camps, across Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.

Also, a recent assessment by the medical team of an International medical humanitarian organisation, Doctors without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), revealed that there is a health crisis in IDP camps in North-east Nigeria with about 24,000 cases recorded in a camp in Bama, Borno State. More than 1,200 graves, many of them for children, have been dug near the camp in the last year alone according to MSF.

The huge number of pregnant women, nursing mothers and children with little or no access to good medical health care facilities have surged the number of avoidable deaths in most of the camps. Over the years, the federal government, state governments, the United Nations, private donors as well as other relevant stakeholders have committed funds, introduced several interventions to ameliorate the sufferings of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the sub-region and improve on their general welfare. Sadly, it appears their conditions have not improved considerably. For example, in August, there was a protest by IDPs in Borno.

The allegation of fraudulent diversion relief fund should prompt investigation by the Buhari administration. Some weeks ago, the Nigerian Senate had signalled its readiness to probe the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation over the alleged fraud in the disbursement of over N1.3 billion fund for relief materials to displaced persons. The relief programme for the IDPs was managed by presidential initiative on the north-east which is domiciled in the office of the secretary to the government of the generation. The probe panel is also to investigate the alleged diversion of grains and other food items from the Strategic Grains Reserves, National Emergency Management Agency and other sources for the displaced persons. The investigation should be prompt and culprits brought to book.

That this has happened at all shows that some Nigerians have lost their fellow feeling and humanity. How can anyone be so mindless as to steal from the vulnerable? Well, the situation is not totally surprising as government officials also steal from the pensioner. What crime can be more heinous than to steal from senior citizens and those vulnerable Nigerians in displaced peoples’ camp? Till date, the 2.5 billion pension fund stolen by pension fund officials has not been accounted for.

With the stealing of relief funds meant for Boko Haram victims, it appears those in the position of authority have lost their sense of sanity. Who else will the victims turn to for help when security agents sexually abuse them and government officials steal the fund, food and materials donated to them? How can the international community and international relief agencies commit their resources when they know it will not get to the victims. The Buhari government must investigate and punish to responsible for this unpardonable outrage.

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